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Keep personal political views out of court, chief magistrate warns new recruits

Chief Magistrate Tim Carmody has taken a gentle swipe at colleagues who "meddle" with the separation of powers.

Mr Carmody, who was speaking at the swearing in of two new magistrates, did not directly address the tension which has simmered between sections of the judiciary and the government since late last year, but he did issue a reminder that all three arms – the legislature, the executive and the judiciary – should keep "their hands to themselves and off the others'".

He also said it was not the role of judges to "deliberately frustrate or defeat policy goals" because of what they "might personally regard as unfair".

He made reference to bail decisions, timely because of the decision of a Supreme Court justice to release two 'Yandina Five' members on bail, less than a month after Mr Carmody denied their application in the Magistrates Court.

"The courts will be vulnerable to criticism if their members use the weight of their office to engage in the public debate or make comments about the comparative morality or fairness of regular laws, regardless of which political party sponsors them or routinely adopts approaches to bail or sentencing practices clearly at odds with legislative or administrative policy intents or legitimate criminal justice objects such deterrents and community protection via hardline incapacitation strategies," he said.

"Judicial independence is a heavy judicial responsibility. Scrupulous care should be taken not to abuse it."

Relations between the judiciary and the government cooled after Parliament passed a round of legislation – ranging from the anti-association laws to sex offender laws – which limited sentencing options for judges and in the case of changes to the dangerous prisoners laws, sought to over rule the court's decision.

That law was struck down by the Court of Appeal as "invalid" late last year.

The government has announced it is reviewing its sex offender legislation options.

But while grumbles can still be heard at both ends of George Street, Mr Carmody said the estates would do best to keep to their own corners.

"Together the judicial independence principal and separation of powers document ensures that in the discharge of their judicial powers and responsibilities judges are not pressured or improperly influenced by anybody else, either from outside of inside the court, including me, to reach a result other than one based on merit alone," he said.

"The separation of powers doctrine is a two-way street.

"Judges must not meddle in the administration of enacted laws by the executive and departments of state."

40 comments so far

  • Just because a parliament passes a law doesn't mean that isn't an ill considered piece of rubbish that is inconsistent with other laws. What does Carmody suggest Judges and Magistrates do in those circumstances.

    Commenter
    Marktlog
    Date and time
    January 29, 2014, 1:12PM
    • the anti-association laws and sex offender laws of late are ill considered pieces of rubbish

      Commenter
      MrTransfield
      Date and time
      January 29, 2014, 1:44PM
    • What should Judges/Magistrates do? It's quite simple. Do what they are supposed to do. Uphold the laws enacted by the properly elected Parliament. If they don't want to do their duty, get out.

      Commenter
      Four term Tony
      Location
      Whyalla
      Date and time
      January 29, 2014, 1:46PM
    • "Uphold the laws enacted by the properly elected Parliament"

      And if these laws go against human rights, or are unconstitutional, what then? Ignore what people and lawyers are saying and just lock people up, especially when they question you?

      Commenter
      wdawes
      Date and time
      January 29, 2014, 4:12PM
    • And Hitler's judges did what, Mr Carmody?

      Stalin's judges? Those in Communist China today?

      The Nuremberg defence of "I was just following orders", doesn't help judges either.

      Commenter
      Meanwhile back in the real world
      Date and time
      January 29, 2014, 4:16PM
    • I agree. Ill-considered redneck laws, worthy of Joh bjelke-Peterson and co.

      Commenter
      Cat
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      January 29, 2014, 6:04PM
    • dangerous, dangerous ground. Judges do need to uphold the law as it is written however the "I did what the law told me to" excuse doesn't wash when dealing with crimes against humanity. And while we aren't at the level of crimes against humanity it's a slippery slope. I would hope it would never ever come to that here but I imagine many people in countries where atrocities occurred thought it wouldn't happen in their country either.

      Commenter
      Noodlebat
      Date and time
      January 29, 2014, 10:04PM
    • "separation of powers document". Exactly what document is Carmody referring to when he says this? Does such a separation even exist at state level? Only in a vague sense. Certainly not in the QLD constitution.

      @ Meanwhile
      Would you please stop making infantile and offensive comparisons to Hitler and Stalin.

      This current government whilst pretty bad by Australian standards is nevertheless not even remotely in that category.

      You would do well to spend some time studying modern history. 30 minutes or so on the origins and causes of WW2 would probably be sufficient for you to see how stupid such comments actually are.

      Commenter
      PJ
      Location
      Brisbane
      Date and time
      January 29, 2014, 11:16PM
    • Good over evil. Clean up the corruption and the crime, starting with laws, youth deterrents, sentencing, re_align 'soft' judges. Make it a safe state, and if you are honest with yourself you'll enjoy sitting in the pub and know 30 bikies aren't going to rock up and park outside and half the patrons leave including yourself. Tim Carmody is having his say just like you had yours and I've had mine.

      Commenter
      saferplace
      Date and time
      January 30, 2014, 8:35AM
  • Not much doubt about which side of politics the "impartial" Tim Carmody stands. All bikie bail application to only be heard by him, and then only a limited number each week ...

    It is not unreasonable for judges to be supportive of the broad principals of natural justice.

    Commenter
    T.
    Date and time
    January 29, 2014, 1:16PM

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